By Joe Klingbeil
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
When you think of team sports, golf may be the last that comes in mind.
But as Alabama men’s golf coach Jay Seawell enters his 16th year as at the helm of the Crimson Tide, team camaraderie is exactly what he wants to see from his group this season.
“I want to build off the team building we had last spring,” Seawell said. “You could see when everybody got healthy, the energy and the momentum of the team. It’s the only time guys play team golf in college, most of the time it’s just individual golf their whole life.
“I really want to continue the development of understanding team golf and what that means, you have to be a little selfless.”
After a 17th place finish in last season’s NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, the Crimson Tide rolls into 2017 returning all five starters. Even though the season has just begun, Seawell has already seen leadership out of upperclassmen golfers Jonathan Hardee, Lee Hodges and Davis Riley.
“When we’ve been successful, our best players have also been our best teammates,” Seawell said. “Not only were they good in doing the things they needed to do, but they were also leaders.”
The Crimson Tide opened the season on Sept. 8 at the Carpet Capital Collegiate and nearly won the tournament, but finished runner-up to Georgia Tech after the Yellow Jackets defeated Alabama on the third playoff hole. Even though the Crimson Tide came up short, Seawell liked the resolve his team showed after being down 13 strokes after the first day of play.
“Those guys, especially Lee and Davis, were extremely great leaders last week,” Seawell said.
The Crimson Tide is ranked 19th after last weeks finish, but the road only gets tougher. Alabama travels to Champaign, Illinois, on Saturday to face a field consisting of eight other teams ranked in the top 20, including top-ranked Oklahoma State.
But to the golfers, competition is what brings them to Alabama.
“Our goal is to play the best golf course against the best teams,” Seawell said. “We’ve had a top 10 strength of schedule since I’ve been here and I think it energizes the players. They want to play against the best.”